Dinghy Sailing: Our Tips for Beginners

If you’re an absolute beginner, learning to sail a dinghy can be both exciting and daunting. In case you don’t know where to begin or how to progress to the next stage of sailing, we’ve put together a guide to dinghy sailing classes and exactly how to get started with learning. We too have been at the beginner stage of dinghy sailing and enquired with sailing clubs on how to get started, so we’ve compiled our top tips to save you the research so you can spend more time getting stuck in.

How long does it take to learn dinghy sailing?

Learning to sail a dinghy is like any skill – you can become competent reasonably quickly with practice, but the longer you put in your efforts the more expert you will become at boating. The good news is that you can get started quickly by enquiring with local sailing clubs about doing a trial.

How to get started at a sailing club

It’s common for clubs to offer initial trials before you subscribe to their membership to see if sailing is for you, and how comfortable you are with the skill. Once you’ve done a trial and decided you’d like to keep learning, you can either practice yourself with someone at the club or you can throw yourself into the sailing life and decide to take one of the RYA courses.

Do I need my own dinghy to learn?

Your local sailing clubs should all have club boats that are available for you to learn with. These are usually boats for different weights and abilities. Although you’re able to practice with these boats at first, it’s usually implied by the club that you should eventually be looking to buy your own dinghy. This will probably suit your needs too – after all, the dinghy you want to sail depends entirely on your own skill, style of sailing, and what you enjoy doing. While some people want to spend their weekends comfortably sailing by on a cruiser dinghy, others might want a higher energy, more active style of sailing with a high-performance dinghy.

How to find out which dinghy floats your boat

We would recommend trying things out before you dive straight into buying a dinghy – try out all of the different dinghies the sailing club has to offer before you decide on which class of dinghy is your favourite. Consider the following:

  1. 1. You might surprise yourself at your skill level once you practice and wanted a higher-performance dinghy than you initially expected.

2. The opposite could also be true - while you might currently see yourself doing some high-energy hiking on a racing dinghy, when you enjoy the leisure of a cruising dinghy you may change your mind.

The beauty of dinghies is that there are many different dinghy classes, so there’s something for everyone. The different types can broadly be divided into three categories, these are:

  • Sailing dinghy - a small boat, open and with no fixed keel and a shallow draft.
  • Keelboat - an open boat, usually larger and with a deeper draft and a fixed keel.
  • Yacht - a larger boat, very often with a cabin and an inboard engine.

Don't forget you could visit the RYA Dinghy Show normally held the 1st weekend of March, where you will see dozens of different types of dinghies on display.

Do I need other equipment?

How much equipment you buy before you start sailing is entirely up to you. Weather-proof clothing and shoes are the only real essentials here. Appropriate dinghy sailing clothing for the weather conditions, and some appropriate shoes you don’t mind getting wet are an absolute must if you are going to visit your local sailing club. However, as you get more comfortable with dinghy sailing, and if it becomes a passion, it’s inevitable you’ll want to invest more into the best gear to help you perform and feel comfortable while sailing. We’ve covered this in more detail in our dinghy sailing clothing blog – save this for when you need to top up your boating wardrobe.

The RYA’s training schemes

So, you’ve been to your local club and tried out what they have to offer or maybe you’ve tried a basic RYA course. What about trying a full sailing course to boost your skill level and feel confident sailing? The RYA offer advanced, foiling and racing dinghy schemes so you can consolidate your skill and eventually master the craft of sailing.

Buying and protecting your own dinghy

When you get to the stage of buying your own dinghy, it’s important to protect the hobby you’re passionate about. You can get our expert advice on dinghy insurance to make sure you’re covered by contacting us, or find out more online about our dinghy insurance.



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